Year four at Hogwart? and things are looking decidedly dark for young super-wizard Harry Potter ?in more ways than one. This time out Harry not only has to contend with all the usual supernatural suspects ?dragons, underwater spooks, a resurrected Voldemort ?he? also got a bit of teenage angst to cope with and the difficult problem of finding a date for the Yuletide Ball. Still, it? all in a day? work the permanently-startled looking literary legend?n

Alfonso Cuaran, director of PRISONER OF AZKABAN, Harry? last cinematic exploit, made Harry? world a little grimmer and, apparently, a little scarier (although I found the film a bit dull and uneventful). New boy Mike Newell, veteran of lightweight comedies like FOUR WEDDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, had a difficult task. Tackling the first of JK Rowling? doorstep-sized Potter novels, Newell and scriptwriter Steve Kloves were forced to jettison what may have been many sequences and characters beloved by fans of the series, in order to create a lean, taut movie which retained the essence of the book. Not having read the tome in question I can? speculate as to how successful they?e been in recreating the feel of the novel but there? no denying that GOBLET OF FIRE, running to over two and a half hours, isn? exactly a punchy movie, but it? certainly quite a bit grimmer than its predecessors and offers up some interesting pointers for the future of the character as the film series passes its halfway mark.

In many ways it? business as usual. Most of the action revolves around Hogwart? and we?e in familiar territory with the banqueting hall sequences (still dig those floating candles!) and dark forebodings of doom and disaster. The school is playing host to the notorious Tri-Wizard tournament and Harry finds himself ?olunteered?for the tournament which leads him into a series of thrilling escapades which are more or less the props of the film, keeping the more mundane sequences supported as we wait for the next spectacle. And the spectacle is there in spades. As a dragon fan I can say I?e seen fewer scenes more exciting than Harry? flight from the dragon as our hero, on his broomstick, swoops over the school and its environs with the dragon in hot (ahem) pursuit, wheeling and banking over spires and turrets as the dragon slides and skitters over roof tiles and almost literally brings the house down. Just as thrilling ?and quite eerie (if a bit narratively confusing) ?is Harry? encounter with the vicious underwater creatures during his second tournament challenge. It? here that we get the first real sense that the stakes are much higher for Harry now and that there are some dark undertones creeping into these movies which might not be to the taste of the character? tinier admirers. Some of the imagery is quite disturbing and it? not hard to imagine several thousand damp beds as terrified nippers came home, wide-eyed and shivering, from their day out at the movies. I was okay though, thanks?n

But despite the bang and the flash and the pretty morbid resurrection of Voldemort, it? the human stuff that held my attention in GOBLET OF FIRE and even brought a wry smile to my face. Harry and co are growing up, their voices deepening (well, not Hermione, obviously) and they?e starting to worry about the things that worry all aspiring adults. It? for this reason that the languid Yuletide Ball sequences is my favourite part of the movie as it shows Harry and his chums starting to struggling with their emotions. It? a charming scene, beautifully written and staged and well-acted (even by young Mr Radcliffe who, whilst improving, still isn? really up to what? required of him by the script) and it depicts perfectly all the clumsiness and uncertainly of adolescence.

The problem I have with Potter? world is that I just don? believe in it. This deep into the series there? little or no reference to or connection with the real world of us Muggles and the world of Hogwart? is so divorced from reality, and its rules and regulations so fluid and ill-defined, it? really hard to get a handle on it all and to utterly invest yourself in what you?e watching. For instance, the geography of the school itself seems to change on the whim of the story ?where did that flaming big maze come from?? ?and there? been no indication previously of the horrors which lie in the lake surrounding the school. Niggles aside though, Potter fans won? be disappointed by GLOBLET OF FIRE although, as purists, they may object to certain changes and omissions to the text. The rest of us can just sit back and enjoy another fanciful romp through JK Rowling? cash cow world of magic and monsters. That?l do for me.]]>

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